By now, you likely have most things buttoned up for the holidays. That means you have a secure and fast POS system in place, a holiday marketing plan, and seasonal employees on tap for your busy season.
But as you consider new ways to sell safely, there’s an aspect of your business you should monitor closely every day — your holiday inventory. To make sure you’re making the most of the holidays this year, here’s a mission-critical holiday inventory to-do list.
1. Make sure you’ve made strategic inventory purchases
You’re the expert in your industry, so it’s likely you already have a hunch about what’s going to sell well this holiday season. If you don’t, social media is the first place to look to get a picture of trending items.
Retail stores, in particular, should check Pinterest and Instagram to see what’s on people’s wish lists. Keep an eye on the type of aesthetic that’s popular this year, which can help inform the look and feel of your online store and in-store merchandising displays.
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But that’s not enough. You should look at some hard numbers — that is, your historical sales data — to make the most informed inventory purchasing decisions. Your Square Dashboard makes this simple. There, you can quickly get a picture of which items or category of items were your most popular last year. You may have sold out of initial mugs, for example, but also items in the accessories category like scarves or mittens. So if you’re low on that sort of inventory this year, stock up now. “Sold out” equals a lost sale.
2. Sync your online and brick-and-mortar inventory
To keep up with changing reopening guidelines, it’s important to connect your in-store and online inventory. This will help you quickly adjust if you have to sell primarily online, and it will also give your customers more options to buy from you.
For instance, they may want to safely browse online and then head into your storefront to actually make the purchase — or vice versa.
If you don’t update your online inventory in real time as items sell out, you may run into problems. At best, that sort of scenario makes for frustrated shoppers. At worst, it makes for customers who switch their loyalty to another store that’s more reliable.
As the retail industry becomes increasingly omnichannel, it’s crucial to integrate software that can sync your brick-and-mortar and online stores’ inventory in real time.
3. Turn your store into a mini distribution center
Once you connect your online and in-store inventory, you may find that you need more space to fulfill holiday orders. One option is to temporarily turn part of your store into a retail distribution center.
A retail distribution center is simply a location where you process orders. With more space to help you fulfill orders, you’ll be able to ship and deliver items to customers quicker, especially if they’re local. You can also use it to allow customers to “buy online, pick up in-store,” called BOPIS, and participate in other safe shopping methods.
Repurposing part of your store into a warehouse can also allow you to process holiday returns quicker, if you allow customers to drop off returns at your store instead of mailing them back. If you have multiple locations, you can let customers pick up their orders at the spot that’s most convenient.
Before reconfiguring your store for retail fulfillment, make sure:
- You know exactly where in your store you’ll fulfill orders (a counter, backroom, or on the floor itself).
- Your online and in-store inventory is synced, and easy for your employees and customers to see what’s in stock.
- You’re all staffed up. You can ask existing store associates to help fulfill orders or you can hire new staff. With either route, make sure you properly train the team on retail fulfillment.
4. Monitor your real-time sales
Every day throughout the holiday season (and year-round, for that matter), you should have a sense of what’s selling well. That means you should check your real-time Square sales data as well as your daily sales reports (you can do both on the go with the Square Dashboard app). This helps you make strategic marketing decisions.
Say, for example, your custom T-shirts are flying off the shelves. That’s a good indication you should promote that item on social media, and perhaps deploy a “going fast” email marketing campaign. You should also display that item front and center in your store window — and feature it in your online store — to catch customers’ attention.